"He's on fire," Piandao said, his tone carefully concealing how very unsettling this situation was.
"Normal response to a fever," the camp's surgeon replied. "At least for firebenders." The woman continued checking over Jeong Jeong, using her own firebending to push away the ex-admiral's fever-fires. "The good news is, if the fever breaks tonight, he'll survive. If it doesn't, you might as well cut his throat, because he'll either cook his own brains from the heat or lose control of his fires and burn alive."
"What can I do?"
She looked at him, amber eyes thoughtful. "Put out the fires, then apply wet compresses to his forehead and the back of his neck. But if you do this, you can't stop, and you are going to get burned."
"I've been burned before," Piandao replied. "Tell Chey to help me with the water."
The surgeon looked amused. She looked amused even pulling arrowheads out of bleeding men or setting broken bones. There was something detached about her that Piandao found worrisome, like a sword that had been warped out of true by waterbent ice.
She lifted the flap of the tent, spoke softly with Chey who was hovering around, and left them there. Piandao watched her go, watched the subtle swing of her hips that said 'I am fire, I will burn you'.
Jeong Jeong, dear as his friend was, could not heal whatever damage was in her. He likely couldn't even see it. Piandao sighed and set his sheathed sword aside. He would speak to his friend about her when the fever was past.
In a few minutes, Chey brought him a bucket of water from the river. Together, they dipped their hands in and drowned the fires dancing over Jeong Jeong's skin. They sprang up again quickly, and Piandao gritted his teeth and drowned each one. Chey soaked rags in the water and laid them on Jeong Jeong's forehead, and steam rose from them until the tent felt like a sauna.
Soon their bucket was empty, and Chey went back to the river.
Piandao spread his hand agaisnt Jeong Jeong's chest, letting the fire wash over his skin. "You're not going to die by fire, old friend."
His sword was still in arm's reach, if worst came to worst.
The tent flap opened, and Chey bore another bucket in. Together, they set about fighting the fever once more.
"He's going to be all right, isn't he" Chey asked, glancing at Piandao, as he gently lifted Jeong Jeong's head and placed a wet compresse beneat his neck. "He's Admiral Jeong Jeong, he's the first person who- deserted the Fire Nation military and lived, he can't die like this, can he"
Piandao wondered about that hesitation. First person who what?"
Agni's fires, Chey looked young then. Hopeful, needing to be reassured, not quite heeding that his hands were on fire... He wasn't even out of his teens yet.
He sometimes thought Chey was a better man than either he or Jeong Jeong. Chey had decided the Fire Nation was wrong after barely a year of soldiering. Both he and Jeong Jeong had served for decades.
"He'll be all right," Piandao said carefully.
He glanced up sharply, and Chey shrugged.
"What" You are." He laid another compress across Jeong Jeong's forehead. "I'm young, not stupid, Master Piandao."
"Then why did you ask" Amusement laced Piandao's voice. "If you know the truth, and don't want to be lied to..."
"I wanted to make sure you weren't lying to yourself," Chey said.
"Hm?" He glanced at the young man, having no idea what he was getting at. He often felt that way around Chey, though, and he sometimes thought it was a pity they were both Fire.
The young man could do a lot with a lotus tile.
"Just because you love him doesn't mean everything's going to work out all right." Chey reached over and dipped a compress in the bucket then wrung it out over a fire on Jeong Jeong's chest. "And just because he loves you doesn't mean he's not going to hurt you."
Piandao blinked and rocked back on his heels. "Ah... It isn't like that-"
"You know, I did say I wasn't stupid earlier."